Thursday, August 1, 2013

SELECTED EXCERPTS - The Original Diary of Erastus Snow

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.  

July 20, 1847. This morning some of the sick felt unable to ride over so rough a road, and three wagons were left until the president and the rear company should overtake them. We followed up Canyon creek eight miles, mostly through dense thickets. After crossing the creek, and often stopping to repair roads, cutting away brush, etc., we camped where Elder Pratt’s company encamped last night, at the base of the mountains. Here we found a letter left by Elder Pratt for us, on the perusal of which, Elders Richards and Smith determined on sending me in the morning with a letter to overtake Elder Pratt, and accompany him to the valley and assist in exploring and searching out a suitable place for putting in our seed.
21st. This morning I started on horseback. Leaving Canyon creek, I ascended westward five miles to the summit of a mountain pass, through a deep and narrow ravine, following a dry bed of a rivulet and occasionally finding a little water which, however, was soon lost beneath the soil. The pass over the summit was narrow, peaks of the mountain rising on each side for three-fourths of a mile. This pass is the only notch or opening of the mountains known in this region of the country that is at all practicable for a road, except through the canyon down the bed of Weber river, which is very rough, and passable only in the lowest stages of water, and scarcely passable for wagons up the stream at any stage. From the summit of the pass, for the first time, I got a sight of the valley of the Utah outlet, extending from the Utah to the Salt Lake. By the trail, it is about fifteen miles from the summit to the valley. The road down the mountain on the west side is very steep, and through a well timbered valley, chiefly of rock maple and quaking asp. A creek originates in the valley which, by the time it opens into the lake valley, becomes quite an extensive stream. I followed this creek down about seven miles, and overtook Elder Pratt just about where it enters a rocky canyon. Here we had to turn to the right and ascend a very steep hill, about three-fourths of a mile long, and descended another equally steep and long one into another ravine, equally well timbered, and supplied with a creek somewhat similar to that of the other valley. As much labor was necessary to make a passable road through the thicket and down the valley, Elder Pratt and myself left the company to perform this task, and made our way down the valley six or seven miles, and came to a small canyon just above where the creek opens into the valley of the Utah outlet. To avoid the canyon, the old pack trail crosses the creek and leads up an exceedingly steep hill on to a butte that commands the valley and view of the Salt lake. From the view we had of the valley, from the top of the mountain, we had supposed it to be only an arm of prairie extending up from the Utah valley, but on ascending this butte we involuntarily, both at the same instant, uttered a shout of joy at finding it to be the very place of our destination, and beheld the broad bosom of the Salt lake spreading itself before us. We descended a gradual slope, some four miles towards the center of the valley, and visited several small creeks flowing from the mountains into the Utah outlet, traveled some ten or twelve miles in the valley, and returned to the company about nine o’clock in the evening, finding them about three miles from where we left them at noon, and Elders Richards and Smith, with their companies, camped half a mile above them.
22nd. This morning we started again, with seven others, to explore the valley further. The company united their efforts to work a road down the creek and make their way into the valley, which was distant only about four miles. As we rode down, this morning, we dismounted and examined the small canyon, and found it practicable to make a road down the bed of the creek, through the canyon, and thus avoid the dangerous and almost impassable hill upon the other side of the precipice. We left a note upon a pole recommending it to the company who, acting upon our suggestion, made the road through the canyon, and before sunset found themselves camped upon a creek in the great valley, four miles from the canyon. Our little exploring company took down the valley a few miles towards the Salt lake, bearing a little west of north, and struck a salt marsh fed by numerous warm springs that came out of the base of the mountains on the east. Cane brake, bull rushes, and a kind of large, three-cornered grass were up to our shoulders on horseback, and the immense body of old grass and rushes formed a bridge over the marsh over which our animals crossed without difficulty. Passing next a dry salt plain, which is evidently covered with water when the springs are flush, we came to a small lake, also fed by warm springs, which evidently spreads over the plain and marsh in the spring of the year. The largest and warmest spring we found was near the margin of this lake. It bursts from the base of a perpendicular ledge of rock about forty feet high and emits a volume of water sufficient for a mill. We had no instrument to determine the degree of temperature, but suffice it to say that it was about right for scalding hogs. Here are the greatest facilities for a steam doctor I ever saw. A stone, in the center of the stream before the aperture in the rocks, seemed to say, this is the seat for the patient. At any rate, I tried it, but had little desire to remain long upon it. All these springs are very strongly impregnated with salt and sulphur and some of them with copperas and other ingredients. Finding no place equal to that east of the Utah outlet, we returned to camp that night, and the next day, 

Friday the 23rd, we moved north to a creek about four miles, where we commenced preparations for putting in seeds.
Saturday, 24th. The president and all the rear of the pioneer company arrived, their health much improved. By tonight we have the creek dammed up and water turned on to our land, and several acres of potatoes and corn planted.
Sunday, the 25th. Had an excellent meeting. All felt satisfied that the Lord had led us to the very spot for a stake of Zion. The following week we continued to put in early corn, buckwheat, and garden seeds, and on the following Saturday (the 31st), Colonel Markham reported fifty-three acres plowed, most of it sowed or planted, besides the wooding of thirteen plows and five harrows, getting timber for a boat, repairing wagons, burning coal, blacksmithing, making roads to the timber in the mountain ravines, exploring the valley, etc., etc.
Tuesday, the 27th. Some sixteen of us, including the Twelve, crossed the Utah outlet, which runs through the center of the valley, passed to the base of the ridge of mountains on the west, found the valley to be about twenty miles broad, passed round the north end of these mountains and struck the southeast corner of the Salt lake, twenty-two miles from our camp, where we halted and had a fine bathing frolic. The water was warm and very clear, and so salt that no fish can live in it. The waters of the ocean bear no comparison to those of the lake, and those who could not swim at all floated upon the surface like a cork, and found it out of their power to sink. When we dressed ourselves we found our hair and skin perfectly coated with fine salt. We continued our march around the point of the mountain to another valley between this and the next parallel range of mountains on the west, which also extends to the lake on the north. This valley is some ten miles broad, and is poorly watered. Returning to a spring near the point of the mountain, we camped for the night.

Wednesday, 28th. We went up the valley on the west of the outlet, about fifteen miles from the lake, and found the west side of the valley to be poorly watered, all the springs now dry, and the land thirsty. Returning to camp, in the evening we held a meeting, and unanimously agreed to lay out a city for our present location on this creek in latitude 40 degrees and 46 minutes, and longitude blank degrees and blank minutes, barometric height of temple block above the level of the sea 4,300 feet, the temple square to be forty rods square, all the streets to be eight rods wide and to cross at right angles east, west, north and south; squares to be forty rods square, and contain eight lots of one and one-fourth acres each, exclusive of the streets, and four of these squares in the four quarters of the city to be reserved for public grounds, etc. I should have mentioned that Elder Amasa Lyman, and a few others from the soldiers, arrived yesterday morning in time to accompany us to the lake. On Thursday, the soldiers and the Mississippi company (numbering conjointly about 250 souls) arrived, which made us about four hundred strong in the valley.
During this week the Ute and Shoshone Indians visited our camp in small parties, almost daily, and traded some horses for guns and skins for clothing, etc. They seemed much pleased at our settling here. While here, one of the Utes stole a horse from the Shoshones and was pursued up the valley by the latter and killed, and his comrade and their horses and the victors returned to our camp with the stolen property.

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